Notes on reading, writing, books & publishing


Hawthorne makes introductions

Posted by Rhonda Hughes on 19 Mar 2013

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Imagine going to a party and someone is there to take you in hand, guide you though the room, and introduce you to the guests. These introductions increase the odds that even the most timid wallflower will have a good time. We want our authors to have a good time at the party, especially the debut writers, so we often pair them with writers who have established audiences.

Hawthorne’s first book to include an introduction was Monica Drake’s debut novel, Clown Girl with Chuck Palahniuk. Chuck gave us a blurb and while I was at the PGW sales conference that year, Elise Cannon suggested asking Chuck to extend his blurb into an introduction. Yes, I said, that is a good idea. Chuck Palahniuk is a generous soul and remarkably supportive of his fellow writers, and he readily agreed to write an introduction. Clown Girl went on to be our first bestseller.

An excerpt from Chuck’s introduction:

No matter what you’d bring to read, Monica would write something better, funnier, more surprising, and sexy. Every week, Monica Drake showed us how good stories could be. Tom taught us craft, but Monica taught us freedom. Courage. If my writing improved, it’s because her work was always better. If a story of mine got laughs, hers were always funnier. Monica moved away from Portland to study with Amy Hempel and Joy Williams, and now she has a first novel. Clown Girl. And all over again, Monica’s showing us just how funny and nuts and sad storytelling can be. Writing this introduction, I’m not doing an old friend a favor—I’m paying a decade-old debt. This isn’t charity or flattery— this is honesty.

Writers are nothing if not rivals, but competition as good as Monica Drake is a blessing.

Clown Girl is more than a great book. Clown Girl is its own reality.

We should all have an arch-enemy this brilliant.

Poe Ballantine’s first memoir, Love & Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere, is our next title on the shelves with an introduction. Who better to pair him with than Cheryl Strayed, author of the outrageously successful memoir, Wild? Cheryl was in the middle of a world tour when she agreed to write and then actually composed the introduction to Poe’s book. To say Hawthorne is grateful to Chuck and Cheryl and all of our other introduction writers is an understatement.

An excerpt from Cheryl’s introduction:

Poe Ballantine is an original. He comes from the place all great artists do – the gloriously singular hell pot of everything that made him – and like all great artists, he brings all of himself to the page. The odd-job drifter. The committed and loving father. The drug-addled mooch. The self-loathing writer. The ambivalent but deeply moral spouse. The train-hopping world traveller. The best friend you’d ever hope to have. The half-in-love but mostly just horny jackass. The uncommonly kind neighbor. The line cook with stunning punctuality. The insecure kid with the zits on his face. The smitten student of Spanish. The why’d-yougo- and-do that punk. The hysterically frank middle-aged ranter-and-raver.

I love every book he’s written, but I love this one most. In Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere, Ballantine gives us everything he’s got. It’s a spellbinding story of a good man who died mysteriously and a moving memoir of uncommon grace, intelligence, and generosity. As I read it, the book seemed to glue itself to my hands. I never wanted to put it down. When I did, finally, after reading the last page, I said what I always say about Ballantine: Wow. Yes. Jesus. Poe!

Welcome to the Club.

A list of Hawthorne titles with introductions include:

Toby Olson’s novel Seaview
introduction by Robert Coover
Gin Phillips’ novel The Well and the Mine
introduction by Fannie Flagg (rights sold to Riverhead Books)
David Rocklin’s novel The Luminist
introduction by Jacquelyn Mitchard
Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead: The Frank Meeink Story as told to Jody M. Roy
introduction by Elizabeth Wurtzel
Lynn Sharon Schwartz’s novel Leaving Brooklyn
introduction by Ursula Hegi
Tom Spanbauer’s novel Faraway Places
introduction by A.M. Homes
Loretta Stinson’s novel, Little Green
introduction by Robin Givens
Richard Wiley’s novel Soldiers in Hiding
introduction by Wole Soyinka
Lidia Yuknavitch’s memoir The Chronology of Water
introduction by Chelsea Cain
Lidia Yuknavitch’s novel Dora: A Headcase
introduction by Chuck Palahniuk


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